Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A Site Responsive Installation, TR2, Plymouth.
Media: Unfired clay, kidney beans and soil

“It is just like a seed dispersal system. They are just scattered to the winds…they have to go wherever they are sent.”
Rowena Hannaford, START.

The installation explores the vulnerability and fragility of displaced lives. The figures made from unfired, grey clay are almost invisible in a concrete landscape and are vulnerable to the wind and rain. The seeds, red kidney beans, are not indigenous and have travelled from other lands.

This installation was created for the Arts Council South West Reverberations performing arts festival. When I first visited the venue, TR2, I was struck by the bleakness of the surrounding industrial landscape. The building itself rising up, a mass of glass, metal, wood and concrete surrounded by quarried rock. Looking across the water you can see the city and rolling green fields. I couldn’t help feeling the contrast. Then a man walked passed outside carrying a blowtorch that he was using in amongst the rocks. I asked what he was doing? Burning the weeds I was told to keep the landscaping pristine of any alien growth!

Earlier in the day I had been talking with a friend about the problems of extreme prejudice that refugees and asylum seekers were facing in Plymouth. Like the weeds at TR2 they aren’t allowed to put down roots. Forced to leave their countries they arrive with the hope and promise of a new home, a new life, but experience a wasteland that lies between homeland and foundland.

The figures were made by a group of refugees, asylum seekers and volunteers from START (Students And Refugees Together) Plymouth.

“The image was profoundly evocative. The metaphor spoke volumes about faith in things to come; trust in a greater power; and patience through adversity [no soil, the wind, the rain]. I felt overwhelmed.
I have seen many installations some impressive, some redundant; but the impact of ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ will resonate with me for all time.”
Sheva Vivienne Martin, Artistic Director , Planet Arts